Pragmatism Today 6 (2):48-61 (2015)

Brendan Hogan
New York University
This reflection on the topic of emancipation stems from an ongoing project in tune with a wider development in pragmatic philosophy. Specifically, the project aims to piece together some of the consequences of pragmatism’s reconstruction of the tradition of philosophical inquiry, from the angle of human imagination. More recently this project has taken a different direction, in light of our critical situation under intensifying anti-democratic forces in the US, but also in many parliamentary democracies. Emancipation from forces that undermine democratic transformation is arguably a goal that anyone gathering under the banner of pragmatism shares. The use of the pronoun ‘our’ in modifying ‘critical situation’ above is intended. It points to the scope of the problem. The problematic situation of ‘intensifying anti-democratic forces’ that sets the agenda for pragmatic inquiry is most aptly termed ‘neoliberal global hegemony’. Neoliberalism is a much-used technical term and its meaning is hotly contested. For the purposes of this paper, then, I would like to lift out several features common to almost all parties in the contest to provide a definition. This description will then be employed for the purposes of determining the character of the contemporary social context in which emancipatory practices take place. Second, by tying this description of the ‘background’ of our practices to the primacy of practical reason thesis, and specifically the role of imagination in practical reason, the pragmatic conception of agency comes into relief. A pragmatic conception of this social context of agency, the contemporary neoliberal imaginary, contributes to articulating prospects for emancipatory practice in a non-abstract sense. An example of experimentalist democratic practices of emancipation responding to crises generated by neoliberal practices is provided by recent efforts in worker co-operatives in Argentina.
Keywords imagination  imaginary  emancipation  John Dewey  Benedict Anderson  Charles Taylor  neoliberalism  agency  neoclassical economics  democracy
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